Game Recap: Hornets 113, 76ers 88
Improved defense and more successful three-point shooting in the third quarter gave the 76ers (0-13) a chance to claw back into their match-up with the Charlotte Hornets (7-6) on Friday at Time Warner Cable Arena. Twelve-year veteran center Al Jefferson, however, was a big factor in keeping the Sixers at bay. After setting the game’s tone by scoring 14 points in the opening 10 minutes of the first quarter, Jefferson later went on to rip off six straight Charlotte points in the final five minutes of regulation, effectively putting the contest out of reach. He finished with game-highs of 26 points and 10 rebounds in the Hornets’ 113-88 victory.
Coming off the bench for the first time since the twelfth game of his professional, Nerlens Noel delivered a strong, spirited effort, posting 16 points and nine boards. Three of his buckets were dunks. By converting seven of nine field goal attempts, Noel shot better than 60.0 percent from the field for the first time this season. Nik Stauskas collected 15 points. Jahlil Okafor had 10 points and seven rebounds.
In addition to Jefferson’s effective two-way performance, Charlotte received sizable contributions from point guard Kemba Walker. He tallied 20 points, and handed out seven assists. Defensively, the Hornets turned aside 10 blocked shots, five of which were from Jefferson. They also outscored the Sixers 27-8 in points generated off turnovers.
Brett Brown spoke earlier this week about the emphasis the Sixers have placed on supporting Nik Stauskas as he works on recapturing his rhythm from beyond the arc. In Friday’s third quarter, the second-year pro showed some of his purest form of the season, snapping smooth swishes on three separate three-pointers in the span of less than four minutes. He took four attempts from the perimeter during that stretch. Stauskas totaled 15 points against Charlotte, going three for eight from the outside (he also nailed a long 22-foot two-pointer in the fourth quarter). He entered the contest having gone three for 14 on three-pointers over his previous three outings.
Brett Brown Said - On the Sixers’ third quarter, in which they outscored Charlotte 29-23, and held the Hornets to 39.0 percent shooting from the floor:
“Our third period, we discussed for the past eight to 10 games, it’s hurt us. [Friday], we woke up. I give them credit, and [they] played a far more physical brand of defense.”
Before the Sixers’ previous game against Indiana on Wednesday at The Center, Brett Brown said he was inclined to bring Nerlens Noel off the bench. His thinking was that with a smaller line-up, the Sixers could better counter Indiana’s projected starting group. The Pacers, though, ended up going bigger, so no change was made.
Against Charlotte, however, Brown ultimately opted to use Nerlens Noel as a reserve. The Hornets were missing power forward Cody Zeller, which cost them some size. Noel, who’s still nursing soreness in his wrists and right knee, spoke at Friday’s shoot-around about the importance of doing whatever the team asks of him.
“We got to set a good example for these young guys,” said Noel. “Sacrifice is something that’s going to be needed with this young team for us to start building in the right direction.
Brown indicated that one of his top priorities is to help Noel find a spark, and, in the process, further build the chemistry between Noel and Jahlil Okafor.
“A lot of it is [Noel’s] evolution trying to play the four spot,” Brown said. “It’s my job to help him, and get him back to being Nerlens. And it starts with energy.”
Noel certainly played with energy Friday. Brown also expressed his belief that Okafor could be capable of assuming sporadic duties at the four position.
Brett Brown said Friday that the Sixers could soon get some frontcourt reinforcement, with rookie power forward Richaun Holmes traveling with the team on its current trek.
“He’s just coming along,” Brown said. “We will see him this trip, but I don’t know what game that will be. “
Holmes has missed the last six games with a right hamstring strain he suffered while warming up for the Sixers’ November 11th meeting with the Toronto Raptors. He had been averaging 5.1 points and 2.3 rebounds in 14.4 minutes prior to the injury.
Not only did Friday’s outcome extend the Hornets’ winning streak to a fifth consecutive game at Time Warner Cable Arena, it represented another prolific offensive display in Charlotte for the team. The Hornets are averaging an Eastern Conference-best 108.7 points per home appearance. Head coach Steve Clifford chalked it up to a 130-point outburst against the Chicago Bulls, and a 116-point showing versus the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday.
Clifford, a longtime friend of Brett Brown who was actually mentored by Brown’s father, Bob, had complementary feedback about his counterpart with the Sixers.
“I think it’s phenomenal,” Clifford said of Brown’s handling of this season. “The number one thing is when you get ready to play them, you can’t get outworked You got to match their energy level and effort level.”
As their road trip rolls on, the Sixers head south to Miami, FL, where they face the Heat (7-4) at American Airlines Arena on Saturday night at 8:00 PM EST. Now in their second season of the post-LeBron James era, Miami has won four of its past five games, and so far has compiled the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference. Chris Bosh, who just nine months ago was diagnosed with a blood clot in his lung, seems to have rapidly rediscovered the form that’s earned him 10 straight All-Star Game bids. He tops the Heat in scoring, averaging 18.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. For the first time in his career, 33-year old Dwyane Wade is logging fewer than 30 minutes a night. Miami signed him to a one-year, $20 million deal this July. Hassan Whiteside averages a double-double, with 15.0 points and 11.3 rebounds, and has already blocked an NBA-best 50 shots. The Heat’s pairing with the Sixers marks the second-to-last appearance on a season-long seven-game homestand.